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Your cause is just, Jackson tells protest camp

  • @kevinJrawlinson

St Paul's Cathedral should provide more support to the Occupy London demonstrators who have been camped outside for more than two months, a leading civil rights campaigner and former aide to Dr Martin Luther King has said.

The Rev Jesse Jackson said the Cathedral "inside and outside, should be the headquarters for the Occupy movement". Addressing around 200 demonstrators at their campsite in the city on Thursday evening, Rev. Jackson added: "so much of the work of the church is not inside the walls."

He urged them to "stand up and fight back", adding: "If Dr King was here, today, he would be an occupier, his last action on Earth was to be an occupier.

The leading human rights and anti-poverty campaigner spoke just days after it emerged that the Cathedral has handed over a witness statement to the City of London Corporation, supporting the eviction of the so-called "Tent City", which arrived on its doorstep on 15 October.

And he offered support to the occupiers facing eviction, saying: "We marched together in Hyde Park to say ‘don't go into Iraq', today we come in that same struggle to make the world more secure. Occupy is a spirit whose time has come. New York, San Francisco and here in London, Occupy addresses the gaps in equality.

"Too few have too much, too many too little. Jesus was taken as a refugee, as an immigrant and he threw out the moneychangers. Gandhi was an occupier, Dr King was an occupier. They are all exalted as martyrs now. They were called terrorists in their time."

He added that he thought the Occupy London demonstration was "not to be dismissed but to be listened to". Sources suggested that a further action was planned by Occupy London demonstrators on Thursday night and Rev Jackson, who began taking part in demonstrations for civil rights in America alongside Martin Luther King in 1965, called on the movement to "march non-violently". He said: "non-violence matters, violence only spreads the disease, choose another way.

The Baptist minister, who is 70, was present when Dr King was shot dead in Memphis, Tennessee. He marched throughout the 1960s and beyond and, after the murder of the leader of the civil rights movement, continued his struggle against racism and also turned his attention to fighting poverty. In 1984, he became the first Black American to run for the Presidency for Democrats, the same party as current President Barack Obama belongs to. He has also caused controversy over remarks he allegedly made about Jewish people.

He has expressed support for other Occupy movements across America and on Thursday told the London demonstrators: "There is something powerful about this occupation at St Paul's, it represents Jesus Christ at the Temple."

The Cathedral did not respond to requests for comment.